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- The Thirty Years War, Book II. - 4/17 -


youthful presumption, and influenced partly by the wish of establishing his reputation at the expense of the Roman Catholic priesthood, whom he cordially detested, and partly by a thirst for plunder, he assembled a considerable army in Lower Saxony, under the pretext of espousing the defence of Frederick, and of the liberties of Germany. "God's Friend, Priest's Foe", was the motto he chose for his coinage, which was struck out of church plate; and his conduct belied one half at least of the device.

The progress of these banditti was, as usual, marked by the most frightful devastation. Enriched by the spoils of the chapters of Lower Saxony and Westphalia, they gathered strength to plunder the bishoprics upon the Upper Rhine. Driven from thence, both by friends and foes, the Administrator approached the town of Hoechst on the Maine, which he crossed after a murderous action with Tilly, who disputed with him the passage of the river. With the loss of half his army he reached the opposite bank, where he quickly collected his shattered troops, and formed a junction with Mansfeld. Pursued by Tilly, this united host threw itself again into Alsace, to repeat their former ravages. While the Elector Frederick followed, almost like a fugitive mendicant, this swarm of plunderers which acknowledged him as its lord, and dignified itself with his name, his friends were busily endeavouring to effect a reconciliation between him and the Emperor. Ferdinand took care not to deprive them of all hope of seeing the Palatine restored to his dominion. Full of artifice and dissimulation, he pretended to be willing to enter into a negotiation, hoping thereby to cool their ardour in the field, and to prevent them from driving matters to extremity. James I., ever the dupe of Spanish cunning, contributed not a little, by his foolish intermeddling, to promote the Emperor's schemes. Ferdinand insisted that Frederick, if he would appeal to his clemency, should, first of all, lay down his arms, and James considered this demand extremely reasonable. At his instigation, the Elector dismissed his only real defenders, Count Mansfeld and the Administrator, and in Holland awaited his own fate from the mercy of the Emperor.

Mansfeld and Duke Christian were now at a loss for some new name; the cause of the Elector had not set them in motion, so his dismissal could not disarm them. War was their object; it was all the same to them in whose cause or name it was waged. After some vain attempts on the part of Mansfeld to be received into the Emperor's service, both marched into Lorraine, where the excesses of their troops spread terror even to the heart of France. Here they long waited in vain for a master willing to purchase their services; till the Dutch, pressed by the Spanish General Spinola, offered to take them into pay. After a bloody fight at Fleurus with the Spaniards, who attempted to intercept them, they reached Holland, where their appearance compelled the Spanish general forthwith to raise the siege of Bergen-op-Zoom. But even Holland was soon weary of these dangerous guests, and availed herself of the first moment to get rid of their unwelcome assistance. Mansfeld allowed his troops to recruit themselves for new enterprises in the fertile province of East Friezeland. Duke Christian, passionately enamoured of the Electress Palatine, with whom he had become acquainted in Holland, and more disposed for war than ever, led back his army into Lower Saxony, bearing that princess's glove in his hat, and on his standards the motto "All for God and Her". Neither of these adventurers had as yet run their career in this war.

All the imperial territories were now free from the enemy; the Union was dissolved; the Margrave of Baden, Duke Christian, and Mansfeld, driven from the field, and the Palatinate overrun by the executive troops of the empire. Manheim and Heidelberg were in possession of Bavaria, and Frankenthal was shortly afterwards ceded to the Spaniards. The Palatine, in a distant corner of Holland, awaited the disgraceful permission to appease, by abject submission, the vengeance of the Emperor; and an Electoral Diet was at last summoned to decide his fate. That fate, however, had been long before decided at the court of the Emperor; though now, for the first time, were circumstances favourable for giving publicity to the decision. After his past measures towards the Elector, Ferdinand believed that a sincere reconciliation was not to be hoped for. The violent course he had once begun, must be completed successfully, or recoil upon himself. What was already lost was irrecoverable; Frederick could never hope to regain his dominions; and a prince without territory and without subjects had little chance of retaining the electoral crown. Deeply as the Palatine had offended against the House of Austria, the services of the Duke of Bavaria were no less meritorious. If the House of Austria and the Roman Catholic church had much to dread from the resentment and religious rancour of the Palatine family, they had as much to hope from the gratitude and religious zeal of the Bavarian. Lastly, by the cession of the Palatine Electorate to Bavaria, the Roman Catholic religion would obtain a decisive preponderance in the Electoral College, and secure a permanent triumph in Germany.

The last circumstance was sufficient to win the support of the three Ecclesiastical Electors to this innovation; and among the Protestants the vote of Saxony was alone of any importance. But could John George be expected to dispute with the Emperor a right, without which he would expose to question his own title to the electoral dignity? To a prince whom descent, dignity, and political power placed at the head of the Protestant church in Germany, nothing, it is true, ought to be more sacred than the defence of the rights of that church against all the encroachments of the Roman Catholics. But the question here was not whether the interests of the Protestants were to be supported against the Roman Catholics, but which of two religions equally detested, the Calvinistic and the Popish, was to triumph over the other; to which of the two enemies, equally dangerous, the Palatinate was to be assigned; and in this clashing of opposite duties, it was natural that private hate and private gain should determine the event. The born protector of the liberties of Germany, and of the Protestant religion, encouraged the Emperor to dispose of the Palatinate by his imperial prerogative; and to apprehend no resistance on the part of Saxony to his measures on the mere ground of form. If the Elector was afterwards disposed to retract this consent, Ferdinand himself, by driving the Evangelical preachers from Bohemia, was the cause of this change of opinion; and, in the eyes of the Elector, the transference of the Palatine Electorate to Bavaria ceased to be illegal, as soon as Ferdinand was prevailed upon to cede Lusatia to Saxony, in consideration of six millions of dollars, as the expenses of the war.

Thus, in defiance of all Protestant Germany, and in mockery of the fundamental laws of the empire, which, as his election, he had sworn to maintain, Ferdinand at Ratisbon solemnly invested the Duke of Bavaria with the Palatinate, without prejudice, as the form ran, to the rights which the relations or descendants of Frederick might afterwards establish. That unfortunate prince thus saw himself irrevocably driven from his possessions, without having been even heard before the tribunal which condemned him--a privilege which the law allows to the meanest subject, and even to the most atrocious criminal.

This violent step at last opened the eyes of the King of England; and as the negociations for the marriage of his son with the Infanta of Spain were now broken off, James began seriously to espouse the cause of his son-in-law. A change in the French ministry had placed Cardinal Richelieu at the head of affairs, and this fallen kingdom soon began to feel that a great mind was at the helm of state. The attempts of the Spanish Viceroy in Milan to gain possession of the Valtelline, and thus to form a junction with the Austrian hereditary dominions, revived the olden dread of this power, and with it the policy of Henry the Great. The marriage of the Prince of Wales with Henrietta of France, established a close union between the two crowns; and to this alliance, Holland, Denmark, and some of the Italian states presently acceded. Its object was to expel, by force of arms, Spain from the Valtelline, and to compel Austria to reinstate Frederick; but only the first of these designs was prosecuted with vigour. James I. died, and Charles I., involved in disputes with his Parliament, could not bestow attention on the affairs of Germany. Savoy and Venice withheld their assistance; and the French minister thought it necessary to subdue the Huguenots at home, before he supported the German Protestants against the Emperor. Great as were the hopes which had been formed from this alliance, they were yet equalled by the disappointment of the event.

Mansfeld, deprived of all support, remained inactive on the Lower Rhine; and Duke Christian of Brunswick, after an unsuccessful campaign, was a second time driven out of Germany. A fresh irruption of Bethlen Gabor into Moravia, frustrated by the want of support from the Germans, terminated, like all the rest, in a formal peace with the Emperor. The Union was no more; no Protestant prince was in arms; and on the frontiers of Lower Germany, the Bavarian General Tilly, at the head of a victorious army, encamped in the Protestant territory. The movements of the Duke of Brunswick had drawn him into this quarter, and even into the circle of Lower Saxony, when he made himself master of the Administrator's magazines at Lippstadt. The necessity of observing this enemy, and preventing him from new inroads, was the pretext assigned for continuing Tilly's stay in the country. But, in truth, both Mansfeld and Duke Christian had, from want of money, disbanded their armies, and Count Tilly had no enemy to dread. Why, then, still burden the country with his presence?

It is difficult, amidst the uproar of contending parties, to distinguish the voice of truth; but certainly it was matter for alarm that the League did not lay down its arms. The premature rejoicings of the Roman Catholics, too, were calculated to increase apprehension. The Emperor and the League stood armed and victorious in Germany without a power to oppose them, should they venture to attack the Protestant states and to annul the religious treaty. Had Ferdinand been in reality far from disposed to abuse his conquests, still the defenceless position of the Protestants was most likely to suggest the temptation. Obsolete conventions could not bind a prince who thought that he owed all to religion, and believed that a religious creed would sanctify any deed, however violent. Upper Germany was already overpowered. Lower Germany alone could check his despotic authority. Here the Protestants still predominated; the church had been forcibly deprived of most of its endowments; and the present appeared a favourable moment for recovering these lost possessions. A great part of the strength of the Lower German princes consisted in these Chapters, and the plea of restoring its own to the church, afforded an excellent pretext for weakening these princes.

Unpardonable would have been their negligence, had they remained inactive in this danger. The remembrance of the ravages which Tilly's army had committed in Lower Saxony was too recent not to arouse the Estates to measures of defence. With all haste, the circle of Lower Saxony began to arm itself. Extraordinary contributions were levied, troops collected, and magazines filled. Negociations for subsidies were set on foot with Venice, Holland, and England. They deliberated, too, what power should be placed at the head of the confederacy. The kings of the Sound and the Baltic, the natural allies of this circle, would not see with indifference the Emperor treating it as a conqueror, and establishing himself as their neighbour on the shores of the North Sea. The twofold interests of religion and policy urged them to put a stop to his progress in Lower Germany. Christian IV. of Denmark, as Duke of Holstein, was himself a prince of this circle, and by considerations equally powerful, Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden was induced to join the confederacy.

These two kings vied with each other for the honour of defending Lower Saxony, and of opposing the formidable power of Austria. Each offered to raise a well-disciplined army, and to lead it in person. His victorious campaigns against Moscow and Poland gave weight to the promises of the King of Sweden. The shores of the Baltic were full of


The Thirty Years War, Book II. - 4/17

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